Bret Webster toured the world to capture new images
Photographer communicates through his art
Fine art photographer Bret Webster said his photographs try to celebrate what’s wonderful in the human existence.
“At its core, art is a communication,” said Webster, owner of Bret Webster Images gallery. “Usually when you’re in wondrous places that are meaningful to you, you try to capture, in a special way as best as you can, parts of it.”
The photographer, whose works also hang in the U.S. Embassy in Kuwait, isn’t satisfied with images of the outdoors. He also photographs images of manmade structures such as bridges and walkways, and has also found beauty in the smaller wonders such as snowflakes and water droplets.
Webster will showcase these and other new images during the Park City Gallery Association’s monthly gallery stroll from 6-9 p.m. on Friday, April 28, at Bret Webster Images, 312 Main St.
“We have lots of new images and lots of fun things,” he said. “The most recent works I have are of Bonanza Flats and Bears Ears in Southern Utah.”
The media is all a buzz about those two areas lately. There is a local movement calling for the preservation of Bonanza Flats, and a regional debate regarding the preservation of Bears Ears as a national monument.
“These are two places that have been dear to me for all of my life,” Webster said. “Since I was a boy, I had been down in the canyons and up in the mountains, and we would always make our way to Bonanza Flats because it was so convenient to go there.
“There’s a cultural membrane you pass through when you get into Park City and then there are more as you wander up and make the curb past Montage and get up over the crest,” he said. “Suddenly, you’re in a nature wonderland.”
Webster, who has a background in chemical engineering, has donated the digital rights of the aspens he has photographed at Bonanza Flat so his images can be used to further the movement to preserve the area.
“Now, I’m not anti-development,” he said. “I feel that development is essential to thoughtful growth. It’s something we strive for, but preserving Bonanza Flat is such a clear and easy cause. I hope we can do it. It would be a tragedy if we lose that.”
Webster said the aspens in that area are different than other aspen groves he has photographed.
“Some groves, when you get in close and you are in an area where they fill your vision, you will see that they are kind of gnarled, crooked and kind of ‘Blair Witch,’” he said. “The ones at Bonanza Flat are lithe, slender, lovely and safe feeling.
“I had some new equipment and techniques and was up in that area every day, several times a day. I actually got addicted to it, to where I didn’t feel good unless I had been there. It’s a little dose of wild, right there. It’s good medicine, like drinking kombucha.”
Webster hopes his images give people that little push to go see these areas in person.
“How do you show these places to someone who hasn’t been there?” he asked. “How do you pique their interest and make them believe that these causes to preserve these places are worthy? Art plays huge roles in those efforts.
“I’m so proud of Park City because it has stepped up and wants to save this area, and that has energized me. I’m grateful to be a part of this event. It adds to my life.”
In addition to Bonanza Flat and Bears Ears, Webster ventured to Osaka and Kyoto, Japan, and photographed everything from gardens to bridges.
“There is a bridge in Kobe that is the longest suspension span on Earth,” he said. “It’s not the longest bridge in the world, but the longest suspension span.”
When Webster visits such areas, he doesn’t go as a tourist.
“Rather, I try to settle into an area and stay there for a while,” he said. “I like to get one spectacular shot of one thing. That can be irksome, because I want to see so many other things. I mean, it’s Japan.”
It rained the day he took the photos titled “Akashi Funnel.”
“Since it was cloudy, I thought I’d go to Kobe and take bridge photos,” he said. “I like those images, and they are very different than aspens.”
Another recent subject Webster has ventured into is the photographing of snowflakes and water droplets.
“Science has discovered that Park City snowflakes are more beautiful than other snowflakes,” he said. “You can quote me on that.”
While snowflakes can be tricky images to capture, the water-drop photographs are created through a scientific experiment.
“I have precision valves that are hooked to a computer,” Webster said. “I can control how big a droplet is and I can control the timing between the droplets down to 20 microseconds.” The photographer can also control how far the valve is from the tray of water.
“I can add color and change the lighting in a variety of ways,” Webster said. “It takes precise controls and a lot of patience. It took months of tinkering to get one shot.”
The idea to take photographs of water droplets bubbled to the surface as Webster contemplated similar physics and water photography efforts and mingled that with the related technical challenges and mathematics.
He remembered a “Partial Differential Equations” mathematics field trip to the Salt Lake Tabernacle and hearing the pipe organ when he was a boy.
“I learned about the standing waves and vibrating strings,” he said. “There are similar sets of equations and solutions that find themselves into the fundamental workings of reality. It’s as if there is music in the heart of everything around us.
“Water is a great example of that. It has a point of maximum density. It’s a universal solvent. It forms structures, even as a liquid, depending on the impurities. Splashing water, colliding water and colors and the optics and physics involved are overwhelmingly interesting. There are secrets in it just waving at us.”
Speaking of water, another new image Webster recently unveiled is a cascade of waterfalls in Canyonlands.
“It has the wonderful patina and desert varnish and it’s like a Disneyland presentation of waterfalls,” he said. “It was taken just after a long, hard rain. The rain dissipated, but the runoff created a waterworks.”
In a couple of weeks, two more of Webster’s works, “Arches Symmetry” and “The Great Gallery” will hang in another U.S. Embassy.
“The U.S. Embassy in Malta will be receiving [these] two images soon,” Webster said. “We’re always very, very excited and honored to display work in U.S. Embassies.”
Webster said his is so lucky to have a gallery in Park City.
“I’m taken with how much I got to know Park City throughout the years,” he said. “It has so many faces and dynamics. It’s a special place.”
Fine art photographer Bret Webster will share some new works during the Park City Association’s April Gallery Stroll from 6-9 p.m. on Friday, April 28, at Bret Webster Images Gallery, 312 Main St. The event is free and open to the public. For information, visit http://www.bretwebsterimages.com.
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